[Seven years ago, the T-Team, next generation embarked on their pilgrimage to Central Australia. Purpose: to scatter Dad’s ashes in his beloved Central Australia, in Ormiston Gorge.
Over the next few weeks, I will take you on a virtual trip to the Centre and memories of that unforgettable holiday in 2013, with my brother and his family; the T-Team Next Generation.
This time, the T-Team visit Mum T’s old stamping ground, Hermannsburg where she shares with the T-Team Next Gen memories of her childhood home.]
Mystery in Historic Hermannsburg
We checked out the old school room. Mum reminisced the terrors of teaching the fellow missionary kids who were barely younger than her. They just refused to listen or obey her. Some were constantly daydreaming and never did their lessons. Mum vowed never to teach again. She escaped this teaching fate by getting married…to Dad.
Then the church.
‘The only time we wore shoes was for church,’ Mum said. ‘Sundays were for Sunday best.’
T-Tummies began to grumble and so, the T-Team Next Gen decided to head for the Precinct Café in what was once the Manse of the Hermannsburg Missionary Supervisor.
As we investigated the old rooms that had been converted into a souvenir shop and tea rooms, Mum said, ‘This is the room Dad and I stayed after we got married.’ I took a photo of Mum in that room which was now filled with souvenir clothes and hats.
Finally, Mum and I approached the counter and asked the young Arunda lady serving, if we could have a table for our party of ten.
She guided us to some tables on the porch where we could sit. Along the way, Mum mentioned to her that she used to live in the house. From that moment on, this lady could not do enough for us, making sure we had the best slices of apple strudel and helping us with the self-serve tea and coffee.
When she had left us to serve someone else, Mum whispered to me, ‘I think she is GW’s (an elder) granddaughter.’
Later, as we were leaving to explore more of the village, she who served us ran up to us to continue the conversation with us about the Hermannsburg of old and answer any of our questions about Hermannsburg today.
Then, she had a question for us. ‘Have you seen or sensed any ghosts?’
We shook our collective heads. ‘No, we haven’t.’
‘Apparently, some people have seen a girl in period clothing, circa 1900. And some have seen an old man in this café. The young girl plays with my children,’ the lady who served us said.
I tried to think back to my previous visits to Hermannsburg. Can’t recall any ghosts then…just dreams of the olden days, way back when…And the pioneer missionaries and Afghans trekking across the desert on horses and camels.
More exploration of the Historic Precinct where Mum walked us through her childhood. First, her old home and the porch converted into a bedroom in which she slept. Now, the home is “renovated” into an art gallery. Her room fetches up to something like one thousand dollars a night for an authentic experience of yesteryear’s accommodation. To think, I did that for virtually free in the 1970’s…not her room, but…
Then, the “native” (as they were called back in the early 20th Century) girls’ quarters and the “native” boys’ quarters. Once upon a time, one hundred years ago, they were locked in at night, so they wouldn’t escape and get up to mischief.
Then the huge shed; a museum of machinery and long-forgotten technology, for butchering cattle, and tanning of kangaroo skins. Outside, my niece sat on an old tractor.
‘I wonder what happened to the green Mission truck?’ Mum said.
While the T-Team Next Gen rested at a picnic table by the morgue, and Anthony filled the water canteens, Mum shared how, as a child, she and her sisters played funerals. ‘We’d dance around the table pinching our noses.’ Apparently, back then, funerals were a regular occurrence. Mum added, ‘The most eerie experience was the wailing by the Arunda when someone died. Sent shivers down my spine.’
Meanwhile Anthony battled with the nearby water pump which was situated just behind the Historic church building.
Mum glanced over and remarked, ‘Last time we visited in 2010, we were told about this competition Hermannsburg and another mission were in for who had the holiest water. Someone had drunk the water from this other mission where the water had bubbled up to the surface through the sand and was healed. So, then, Hermannsburg had to out-do this other mission and also make water with healing qualities.’
The T-Team laughed.
‘Hey, Anthony, you’re pumping holy water,’ Richard’s wife, Mrs. T called out. ‘Are you allowed to do that?’
‘It’ll be alright,’ Mum said. ‘No one’s looking.’
Anthony took a sip and frowned. ‘It tastes awful!’
‘Too salty?’ I asked.
‘Well, that’s convinced me!’ Anthony put his hands on his hips. ‘We’re going back to Alice Springs for the night.’
So, with our water containers empty, Anthony and I joined the T-Team on the return trek to Alice Springs.
‘I hope we can get a campsite at the Stuart Camping Ground,’ Anthony said.
[to be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Hermannsburg Historic church © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955